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Some things get better with time. For Jay Lane of Mt. Pleasant, it took 40 years before he received one of the highest ranking medals awarded by the U.S. Army. The paperwork for the medal he should have received in 1971 had been lost in the shuffle. Though Lane knew he had earned it, he never officially received it.
When first returning from Vietnam, Lane told many people he had been shot down three times and was the recipient of the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, but without the proof to back it up, it all seemed like another war story. It wasn’t until after gibing by his siblings that his sister, Janyce Miller, researched his military records to determine if he had indeed been shot down three times and earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart.
As she unearthed the history from four decades, not only did she discover he had earned it, but that he had never been honored. When Sen. Mike Lee was notified, his office took it from there and after several months of communications with the U.S. Department of the Army confirming the records, an official ceremony became a reality.
In 1971, Lane was a young combat pilot half way around the world fighting a war along with his younger brother, Jake Lane (deceased) and away from his wife and two daughters. His youngest daughter was born six weeks after he shipped out for Vietnam. Lane was a skilled pilot who had been shot down three times and miraculously escaped death several times.
On May 28, 1971, Lane was resupplying infantry in the field when his Huey helicopter was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades shortly after takeoff. The tail boom was nearly blown off and the aircraft quickly became a ball of fire, resulting in a semi-controlled crash.
After Lane got out, he realized his crew chief was still inside the burning helicopter. The aircraft was lying on its side and Lane had to climb back into the burning aircraft through the shattered windshield to pull out his crew chief and again to search for his gunner and a third time to retrieve the first aid kits to care for the wounded. Under intense enemy fire and even though Lane was badly wounded himself, he administered first aid to his crew and led them through life-saving maneuvers, avoiding enemy capture.
On Sept. 27, Lane was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart in an official military ceremony in Salt Lake City. Lane was able to give his own remarks and voiced his gratitude that the honor had taken 40 years in coming.
“This has allowed my children and grandchildren to witness this event,” he said. He and his wife, Mina, have been married 43 years and have 10 children and 27 grandchildren, all of whom were able to attend the ceremony.
In his remarks, Lane quoted Ed Rasimus, a Vietnam combat pilot, who said, “Real bravery is seldom seen or reported, and real heroes downplay their actions. Medals most often come through coincidence — being in the right place at the right time and then not getting killed."